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ClimateMinder Monitors Conditions at Farms, Greenhouses, Warehouses

The wireless sensor system, already in use in Turkey, is being introduced in the United States, where a strawberry grower will soon deploy it to monitor temperature and fertilizer levels.
By Claire Swedberg
The central reader unit, which includes relays that act as power switches, can also be connected directly to equipment such as sprinklers, heaters or cooling units. If the conditions reach a specified threshold—such as sufficiently cold for frost damage, or too dry—the central unit can immediately turn on the appropriate equipment to take corrective action.

Each node is wired to a variety of sensors based on the end user's needs. In some cases, air and soil temperatures are measured, as well as humidity, carbon dioxide and UV radiation levels. The nodes can then be placed on a bench or ground near a plant, and the sensors wired to those nodes can be situated near the plant or inserted into the ground.

The ClimateMinder server software sends alerts to users if a threshold—such as freezing temperatures—has been reached, and the user continues to receive e-mails until he or she responds.

Many greenhouses are currently monitoring their air and soil conditions based on wired sensors, Almasri says, but that requires running hundreds of feet of wires, which can be cumbersome and expensive. "The best value of this system," he notes, "is it allows you to control the environment without wires." The software also enables users to sign into their site on ClimateMinder by using their cell phones, and to view information related to their fields on the mobile phone screen.

Users pay a monthly fee that varies according to installation size. Because growers in different parts of the world have different concerns—such as temperature fluctuation, watering or salt issues—the system is designed to be flexible.

In Turkey, the system is being employed by a variety of greenhouses and nurseries. Has Nursery, in the Turkish city of Antalya, has been monitoring the temperature and humidity of its watermelon plants for the past six months. During the winter of 2008-09, the plants suffered temperature-related damage even though the managers had expected conditions to be sufficiently warm. "One day, I stayed at the nursery and I saw some dropping of temperature during the night," says Hande Saganak, the nursery's production manager. "But, of course, I wouldn't be able to stay every night at the nursery, so I realized I needed a system such as ClimateMinder that could measure temperature and humidity very often, and could give alarm if something was wrong."

Has Nursery installed a system consisting of five sensor nodes and one central base station. "The first week," Saganak says, "we could not sleep all night because of the alarms. The problem was bigger than we thought, but we were able to fix it easily after the ClimateMinder system."

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